Turkey says Syrian govt air strikes kill two Turkish soldiers near Idlib
No relent in fighting in northwest Syria, deepening misery for civilians
ANKARA: Turkey said on Thursday that two Turkish soldiers were killed and another five were wounded in Syrian government air strikes near the northwestern region of Idlib on Thursday, adding that more than 50 Syrian forces had been killed in retaliation.
Russian warplanes struck at rebel-held towns in northwest Syria again on Thursday and Turkish artillery supported insurgent attacks elsewhere as officials from the two countries struggled to reach a compromise to halt an escalation in the Syrian war.
In Geneva, the United Nations refugee chief called for a halt to the fighting to allow hundreds of thousands of trapped civilians to move to places of safety.
Syrian troops backed by Russian forces have been battling since December to eradicate the last rebel bastions in Idlib and Aleppo provinces in what could be one of the final chapters of the nine-year-old civil war.
But Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday threatened to launch a military operation against the government forces unless they pulled back, and Turkish troops and weaponry have already massed inside Syria.
Talks between Ankara, which supports some rebel factions, and Moscow to avert a wider war and a possible direct confrontation have struggled to make progress.
Turkish officials sounded more optimistic on Thursday and one said the latest round had not been “completely without a result”.
“Russia has maintained its position that Turkey withdraws from Idlib and evacuates its observation posts since the beginning. Withdrawing from Idlib or evacuating the observation posts is not on the agenda,” the official said
However, various options were being discussed, including the possibility of joint patrols in the area. Both Ankara and Moscow expected their presidents to “end the issue,” he added. – Reuters